As a student in the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program in Photography at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, you can study photography in as many ways as you want to, whether you’re interested in a fine art, editorial, fashion, commercial, documentary or studio approach and select your own area of focus. You’ll use UArts’ incredibly full range of media resources and state-of-the-art facilities to master techniques in a variety of disciplines, including digital and analog/film. This bachelor’s degree program is especially suited for those who are highly adaptable and able to express their unique artistic voice in multiple environments using a combination of technical skills, critical thinking and a fine-art aesthetic.
With Philadelphia as your campus, you’ll get to know local art organizations, museums, theaters, venues and more. Our accomplished faculty utilize industry connections to offer networking opportunities and behind-the-scenes experiences. Our galleries, as well as visiting artist and speaker series, bring renowned photographers, curators, photo editors, industry professionals and gallery directors to UArts, where you can meet them one-on-one. Beyond Philadelphia, you’ll explore New York City through visits to museums, galleries and major industry expos. UArts Photography students also showcase work in our numerous galleries and exhibition spaces.
Through internships, you’ll apply your knowledge in various studios, galleries and production houses in the city and beyond. You'll work on real-world projects for outside companies and institutions. For example, in one project, students shot all of the photographs for the annual report of the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Studying at UArts prepares you for a diverse set of careers in photography. You’ll be able to take courses in other degree programs across the university and minor in 23 disciplines. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography degree program is cross-disciplinary, and there are ample opportunities to collaborate with students majoring in different fields such as dance, film, fine art, music or theater.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic nationwide social shutdown during the spring 2020 semester, the BFA Photography program candidates at University of the Arts were unable to present their thesis exhibition in a physical form. Over the past year, these 17 students have demonstrated a commitment to developing thoughtful, provocative and accomplished work. The projects are diverse, comprehensive and range in approach to the photographic medium while maintaining the highest standards for the craft.
University of the Arts is featured three times in Peerspace’s list of the top 12 fashion photographers in Philadelphia. Trevor Dixon BFA ’89 (Photography), Marcus Branch BFA ’14 (Photography) and Senior Lecturer Shawn Theodore are included in the list, which also provides the photographers’ Instagram handles so users can check out the breadth and beauty of their work over time.
Theodore’s images are on exhibit at UArts in the Photography Program Gallery, Terra Hall, 15th floor, through Sept. 29. A description of his work notes that it “makes connections that merge daily observations into the power of myth; drawing on the power of the internal metaphysical dichotomies of the African American psyche as a retelling of missing narratives, a practice he calls ‘Afromythology.’”
Branch’s work aims to celebrate people of color, encourage diversity, and to contribute a positive perspective of the often misrepresented.
- The Photographic Journal
Marcus Branch says "UArts helped me to develop not only my work, but my professionalism and ability to network in the fields that I infiltrate."
Marcus's work has been published in Paper magazine, Interview magazine, W magazine, i-D magazine, i-D Japan, i-D Germany, and on VICE.com. He was also featured in Conde Nast’s First LGBTQ publication, THEM.
Marcus was deemed one of the “Next Generation of Instant Photographers” by world-renowned photographer Ryan McGinley, and he was featured in the “New Originals” gallery exhibition with Polaroid Originals at Chesterfield Gallery in NYC, curated by McGinley.
About the Curriculum
The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography degree program provides practical, professional training balanced with a fine-art aesthetic. Through visiting artists, gallery exhibitions, internships, diverse faculty, and significant engagement opportunities with the fine art and photo education communities, you’ll develop technical proficiency and an innovative, creative background preparing you for any career in the photo industry.
Students who complete the Photography program will
- demonstrate independent, creative problem solving and original thinking. They will exhibit a distinct and personal approach to art making.
- demonstrate knowledge of contemporary issues and historical precedents. They will have an appreciation for experimentation/innovation and the traditions of making as applied to contemporary photographic practices.
- acquire and demonstrate the professional skills needed to be successful as practicing artists, entrepreneurs and productive citizens, including further study at the graduate level.
- be able to talk and write about art (including their own work) critically, intelligently and with considerable insight.
- acquire the level of technical skill required for them to reach their career goals in an ever-evolving medium. They will be able to establish a studio practice appropriate to their ideas and demonstrate a deep familiarity with materials and processes.
During your first year in the Photography degree program, you’ll learn the fundamental skills of art making and critical thinking while connecting with art history and contemporary art. You’ll learn the principal techniques used in photography, including camera operation, developing, printing using both darkrooms, as well as digital technologies and basic lab use. You’ll use the city as a resource and collaborate with other students from the School of Art.
A foundation of descriptive photography is key in your second year, which you’ll develop through concepts and skills such as black-and-white photography, digital photography, darkroom control, medium and large-format photography, and printing in analog and digital platforms. In Sophomore Projects, you’ll combine research- and studio-based practices to establish a working archive in which you can effectively communicate your artistic voice, both orally and in writing.
As you progress into your third year, you’ll study topics such as large-format photography, studio practice, artificial lighting, digital techniques, analog color photography, software and tethering practices, color management, printing, and photographic theory and criticism. In the course called Junior Projects, you’ll expand your working archive and develop your individual studio practice within the context of a cross-discipline dialog. You can choose to pursue specialized issues, such as documentary/street photography, fashion and editorial photography, non-silver processes, print surface-alteration, and more.
When you’re a senior, you’ll study the practice of professional photography with attention to various career opportunities, portfolio presentation, business practices, professional ethics, photographic law, intellectual property in the age of digital duplication and personal objectives. In addition, you’ll work in advanced digital techniques and studio courses and gain practical experience through internships.
Thesis Portfolio and Exhibition
Your senior year is capped off with engaging in the production of a thesis portfolio and preparing work for a public exhibition, and leave UArts with an independent body of photographic artwork of your choice and direction. You’ll frame your thesis, go through the process of self-definition as a photographer and artist, and expand on theory and criticism.
Laptop & Camera Requirements
At UArts, all incoming freshman and transfer students are required to have laptops. Students with qualifying laptops are given access to install university-licensed software for free. Students in the Photography bachelor’s degree program are required to have a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera.
Learn about the recommended laptop specs for Photography students.
See a list of free university-licensed software.
Duration: Four years, full time
Major requirements: 63 credits
Discipline history: 12 credits
Critical Studies: 30 credits
Free electives: 15 credits
To maintain academic good standing, undergraduate students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0.
Our students are storytellers with a distinct and personal approach to art making. Their works have been featured in magazines, local exhibitions and more.
Click on the images below to read more.
In the Photography major, you'll study with top professionals with extensive experience in a wide range of concentrations, including fine art, editorial, fashion, commercial, documentary and studio practice.
Click on the images below to read more.
MFA '06 (Book Arts & Printmaking)
You’ll gain professional experience and a behind-the-scenes view of the photo industry during an internship. Throughout your course of study, you are required to complete an internship or take the Photo Practicum course. While students are responsible for finding their own internship, they often utilize faculty’s connections in the industry to find opportunities.
Organizations that have hosted prior internships include
- Allure Magazine
- Centro Nueva Creación
- ELLE Magazine
- Philadelphia Daily News
- Philadelphia Magazine
- Philadelphia Photo Arts Center
- The Center for Emerging Visual Artists
- The Photo Review
- Vox Populi Gallery
- WXPN Radio/The Key
In the Photography program, you’ll take courses that focus on the study of professional practices. You’ll learn about various career opportunities, portfolio presentation, business practices, professional ethics, photographic law, intellectual property in the age of digital duplication and managing your personal objectives. Through a variety of guest artists and speakers, you’ll learn from and network with professionals in the field.
Common career paths for Photography graduates include
- Art direction
- Commercial and industrial photography
- Gallery manager or assistant
- Photo editor
- Photography/Art instructor
- Portrait photography
- Studio manager or assistant
Click on the images below to read more.
The Photography program has a long history of successful alumni including the likes of Irving Penn ’38, George Krause BFA ’58, David Lebe BFA ’70, Susan Welchman BFA ’70, Zeke Berman BFA ’73, Deborah Willis BFA ’75, Jayne Wexler BFA ’83, Catherine Edelman BFA ’85, and Matt Suib BFA ’95. Our alumni go on to careers in a myriad of photography and related fields and are winners of MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim Fellowships. They have exhibited and been published nationally and internationally, have become editors, art directors, publishers and makers. Some have gone on to complete their MFA and others have established successful businesses.
The Photography program has state-of-the-art facilities available for use during and outside class. Maintained by the Office of Technology and Information Resources, the facilities are located on the 14th and 15th floors of Terra Hall. The recently renovated spaces include a new digital imaging lab, a laptop lab, a dedicated Photography classroom and a Photography program gallery. As a Photography student, you’ll be able to store your projects and materials on the same floors as the studios and labs.
- two 16-station, air-conditioned, black-and-white darkrooms with
- 4 x 5” Beseler 45V-XL series enlargers with three lens turrets
- one special projects darkroom with
- one 8 x 10” in Beseler 45V-XL enlarger
- one 8 x 10” Durst color dichroic enlarger on rails
- mural printing capability (prints as large as 4 x 6’)
- one Jobo RA-4 tabletop color print processor with a 14” wide capacity
- nine Aristo cold light enlarger light sources
- two film processing labs with
- five micron water filtration systems
- temperature controlled sinks
- silver recovery systems
- DSA Senrac film dryers
- Kreonite film drying cabinets with filtered air
- specially designed high-ceiling photography shooting studio
- daylight studio with north-facing windows
Digital Imaging Lab
- 16 stations
- 16 Apple 21” iMac computers (16GB RAM, 3.1GHz processors)
- six Epson SureColor P600 inkjet printers
- 14 SVII-Calibration/SVIISOFT display calibration software and hardware
- eight Epson V700 Flatbed/Film scanners with Silverfast Ai8 Studio scanning software
- two 80” NEC displays
- two X-Rite iOne Color calibration system with Profile Maker Pro software
- two X-Rite iO automatic calibration plotter for the iOne Color calibration system
- 12 stations
- 12 NEC SpectraView II MultiSync LCD2690WUXi with 26” wide gamut displays
- one Epson Stylus Pro 7900 24” wide-format inkjet printer
- one Canon Realis video projector
- one Xerox Phaser 7100 color, tabloid-capable laser printer
- one Epson SureColor P600 inkjet printer
- one Epson Expression 1640 XL large-format flatbed scanner
- one Hasselblad Flextight X5 virtual drum scanner
- paper storage space for students
Wide-Format Printing Suite
- three Epson Stylus Pro 9900 44” wide-format inkjet printer
- two Epson Stylus Pro 7900 24” wide-format inkjet printer
- one 21” Apple iMac
- four 27” Apple iMacs
- two flat paper storage for oversized prints
Photo Finishing Room
- one Excalibur 5000 cutter
- two matcutters
- four print mounting presses
- one copy-stand
- 80” NEC display
The gallery offers a regular schedule of contemporary photography exhibitions by established and emerging photographers from around the world. Our recently expanded and renovated gallery space includes 75–100 linear feet of gallery walls, projection capabilities and state-of-the-art tunable LED lights on the 15th floor of Terra Hall.
Sol Mednick Project Space & Gallery
The only endowed gallery in Philadelphia dedicated solely to the exhibition of photography and supporting the practice of emerging practitioners, the Sol Mednick Project Space and Gallery was founded by longtime UArts professor Ray K. Metzker. The gallery, named in honor of famed photographer and UArts alum Sol Mednick, offers contemporary photography exhibitions by emerging photographers from the Philadelphia area, as well as serving as a makers and exhibition space for current students. The Sol Mednick Project Space and Gallery is located on the 15th floor of Terra Hall.
OTIS Media Resource Center
The OTIS Media Resource Center (Equipment Room) serves students, faculty and staff by lending equipment, managing facilities and providing consultation during the fall and spring semesters. Staffed by two full-time supervisors, it is located on the 12th floor of Terra Hall. As a UArts student, you can sign out any equipment you may need for classes and special projects.
Center for Immersive Media
The Center for Immersive Media (CIM) is a 5,600-square-foot facility dedicated to exploring the fields of virtual and mixed reality, performance motion-capture, and human-computer interaction. As a student at UArts, you can take elective courses that utilize CIM. The space includes
- an optical motion-capture system for full-body performance capture and location-based VR applications;
- a four-channel audio system, multiple video projectors and lighting, and a control station;
- 16 Genelec speakers for a 3rd Order Ambisonic system;
- a 16-station computing classroom with PCs optimized for real-time graphics rendering; and
- two large project rooms with ceiling grids for the development of installations and virtual environments.
Each year, the Photography program at UArts illuminates and inspires students and the public through the work of exhibiting and visiting artists.
Fall 2020 Guest Lectures
- John Carlano (Exhibition & Lecture)
- Janet Delaney (Exhibition)
- Matt Eich (Lecture)
- Amit Elkayam (Lecture)
- Stephen Foster (Lecture)
- Jill Freedman (Exhibition)
- Amy Giese, Sandi Haber Fifield, Christopher Russell (Exhibition and Lecture by A.Giese)
- Henry Hornstein (Lecture)
- George Krause ’58 (Exhibition)
- Mary Magseman & Stephan Hillerbrand (Exhibition)
- Nelson Morales (Exhibition & Lecture)
- Zora Murff (Exhibition)
- Patrick Nagatani (Screening with Lynn Estomin)
- Louie Palu (Exhibition & Lecture)
- Kris Sanford (Exhibition)
- James Singewald (Exhibition)
- Rafael Soldi (Lecture)
- Shawn Theodore (Exhibition & Lecture)
- Hồng- n Trương (Lecture)
- Kurt Tong (Exhibition)
- Stacey Tyrell (Exhibition & Lecture)
- Daniella Zalcman (Lecture)
Photography Program Gallery Exhibitions
The Photography program’s gallery puts on seven exhibitions each year. Exhibitions feature artists of diverse backgrounds and practices. There are three exhibitions each semester and a sophomore student exhibition over the summer. Exhibiting artists have included Sandi Haber Fifield, Nelson Morales, Zora Murff, Kris Sanford, Shawn Theodore and Stacey Tyrell.
At the end of the spring semester, sophomores install an exhibition of their work in the Photography program gallery and juniors install a “pin-up” show in the hallway of the Photography floor. This gives students the opportunity to consider the curation of their work. The seniors exhibit in Hamilton Hall as part of their thesis work as well as in an off-campus exhibition venue of their choosing. The senior off-campus exhibition is organized solely by students, from contracting a location to curating, installing, promoting and managing.
Admissions Deadline: There is no set deadline. UArts operates on a rolling admissions basis, which means we will receive and process applications throughout the year as space remains available in each program.
The following materials are required for your application.
- A completed application for admission
- A nonrefundable $60 application fee
- Official high school transcripts
- Official transcripts from the high school(s) you have attended are required. For transfer students, transcripts from each college you have attended are required. They must be mailed directly by your school in a sealed envelope to the Office of Admissions, emailed directly from your school, or sent through a secure electronic transcript delivery service. Transcripts sent or emailed by students are not considered official. They should be sent to the Office of Admissions, University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For transcripts from outside the U.S., refer to the instructions for international students.
- A writing sample
- Your writing sample should address one of the following questions, interpreted as you wish. There is no right or wrong answer.
- When and how did you discover your creativity?
- How will University of the Arts help you achieve your creative and professional goals?
- How do you want your creativity to impact the future?
- Submit an existing piece of writing, such as an essay or class assignment, on any topic.
- Pay attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation. There is no required word count, but we recommend a 250-word statement, which is about one double-spaced page. You can upload your sample with your application for admission, or email it to email@example.com.
- Your writing sample should address one of the following questions, interpreted as you wish. There is no right or wrong answer.
- Your portfolio
- All students applying to visual arts programs—those in the schools of Art, Film and Design—are required to submit 15–20 examples of original artwork. You may choose to include work from a variety of media or select one area of focus you want to highlight. Your portfolio should demonstrate your creativity, showcase your skills, represent the art forms you have studied and highlight your ability to communicate ideas. Get more tips about submitting your portfolio.
- International applicants must submit proof of English proficiency
- Optional Materials
- You can also submit SAT scores, a résumé and/or letters of recommendation. None of these materials are required. Learn more about submitting optional materials.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
UArts recognizes the extraordinary talent of our students through a range of merit-based scholarships. All applicants are automatically considered for such scholarships—no special application is necessary.
Nearly 80 percent of UArts’ undergraduate students enrolled on a full-time basis are eligible for some type of need-based aid. Additionally, some scholarship opportunities take need-based criteria into account. All students who are U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens and are enrolled in a degree program are encouraged to apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
NYC Shows, Exhibitions & Fashion Week
Each semester, there is a bus trip to New York City timed around leading Photography industry trade shows and exhibitions such as The Photography Show held by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD), PhotoPlus Expo and Photoville.
New York Fashion Week, held in February and September of each year, is a semi-annual series of programs related to international fashion collections, which Photography students in Studio and Fashion/Editorial courses attend and participate in public events.
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